It sounds like a fairly unpleasant accident. it would have to be to get £60 damages. That's like a year's salary.
"Employers’ Liability.If they were repitching every three months, that implies a lagering time of that length. Which is the classic lagering time. The process of setting light to hot pitch sounds pretty dodgy. And I certainly wouldn't want to have pitch splash over me, as in the case of the unfortunate Mr. Hume.
The case of Hume v. Imperial Lager Beer Company, Limited, which came before the Lord Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Mathew on January 29th, was an appeal from the County Court at Edmonton where the plaintiff had obtained a verdict for £60 damages for personal injuries.
Mr. Colam, appearing for the appellants, said the notice of motion was that judgment should be entered for the appellants or in alternative for a new trial, on the ground that there was no evidence of negligence to go to the jury, and that the learned judge had misdirected the jury in the summing-up. The defendant company had several large vats in which they stored beer, which had to be cleaned out about every three months. For that purpose hot pitch was poured into them, and it was afterwards heated with red hot irons, and ignited by a kind of torch, and stirred round with the hot irons until the whole of the pitch was liquid, and then the vats were rolled about the yard until the inside was thoroughly coated with pitch.
The Lord Chief Justice asked if that was done to give a flavour to the beer.
Mr. Colam said no; it was to make them thoroughly beer-tight. That practice had been in use for a long tune. The plaintiff spoke to it for five years, and no explosion had ever taken place before, but on the occasion in question an explosion occurred, which drove a piece of wood out of the bottom of the vat. This struck the plaintiff and knocked him down, and some hot pitch which he was carrying fell over him and scalded him. There was no evidence to show how the explosion was caused.
The Lord Chief Justice asked if there was not some evidence that the hoops were loose.
Mr. Colam said that point was expressly abandoned by Mr. Statham, who appeared for the plaintiff. He submitted that there must have been some chemical in the pitch which caused the explosion, but there was no evidence that the pitch ought to be lighted or tested in any way before it was used."
"The Brewers' Journal, 1898", page 116.
I like the judge asking if the pitch lining was for flavour. Though there are plenty of reports of Lager made this was having a garlicy flavour. Sounds lovely.
"The Lord Chief Justice said perhaps the word explosion was hardly the correct term in the ordinary sense, but probably in every case when the light was applied there was something of the same nature in a less egree. There would be a sudden expansion of the gases in the interior. Mr. Colam said the evidence was that there had never before been any explosion, but that there was a sort of humming noise. His complaint was that the learned judge by his summing up led the jury to believe that because a piece of the vat came out w en the explosion took place, that was evidence that the vat was defective. There was no evidence whatever of actual defect.I'm glad that Mr. Hume got to keep his sixty quid. Sounds like he deserved it.
Mr. Justice Mathew said there was evidence that the vat was an old one.
Mr. Colam said it was only proved to be five years old, and it had gone through this process about every three months.
Mr. Justice Mathew said there was no evidence it was only five years old.
The Lord Chief Justice said a pitcher might go often to the well and yet get broken at last.
Mr. Colam then read the summing up, pointing out passages of which he complained, and again submitted that the learned judge had led the jury to a wrong conclusion, and that there was no evidence of negligence.
The Lord Chief Justice, without calling on Mr. Statham, said the learned judge left the question to the jury whether the injury to the plaintiff arose from the defective state of the vat, and whether such defect might by reasonable care have been discovered and guarded against, and it could not be contested that that was a roper uestion to be left to the jury. But it was contended on the part of the defendants that there was no evidence which ought to have been left to the jury that the injury did arise from the defective state of the vat. After reading the section of the Act, and referring to the operation performed, he said it seemed clear on the evidence that this operation exerted a certain amount of pressure outwards on the vat which was submitted to it. One of the witnesses said that when the light was applied flames came out, and a noise is heard; "hum ming, like a report." He did not doubt, therefore, that there was caused by the lighting of the pitch a kind of modified explosion in every case, or at all events a pressure arising from something of the character of an explosion. On the occasion in question this pressure resulted in a portion of the vat being forced out. He did not find in the evidence that the plaintiff was at any great distance, but he fell to the ground, and the pitch he was carrying went over him. Did not that state of facts raise a prima facie case of negligence within the meaning of the Act, which had to be answered? It could only have arisen from the fact that the vat was not strong enough to bear the operation. It was suggested that this was an exceptional operation, that there were chemicals in the pitch which caused the explosion, but if that was the suggestion it was for the defendants to show that such a thing was possible, and they called no evidence at all. The evidence was that this vat was five years old to the knowledge of the plaintiffs, but of its actual age there was no evidence at all: or that any examination had been made of it to see whether it was sound. Under these circumstances he could not say that there was not evidence proper to be considered by the jury, and what they said after giving their verdict showed that they understood and appreciated the matter submitted to them, and had formed an opinion which seemed to him to be a sensible one. They said, “The jury would like to add that if proper means had been adopted to ascertain the strength of the vat before firing, the explosion probably would not have occurred." The summingup must be taken as a whole, not isolated sentences or half sentences by themselves, and taking it as a whole he thought the learned judge had left the proper questions to the jury, and in the proper way. The verdict and judgment would therefore stand.
Mr. Justice Mathew concurred, and the appeal was therefore dismissed with costs."
"The Brewers' Journal, 1898", page 116.
The Imperial Lager Brewery was in Tottenham. It opened in 1882 as the Anglo-Bavarian Lager Beer Brewery & Crystal Ice Factory. It changed its name to the Tottenham Lager Beer & Ice Factory 1886. That went into liquidation in 1895and a new company called the Imperial Lager Brewery was created. It stopped brewing in 1903.